Meet The Contributors

The Conversation: Stories that Matter is co-produced by empowerHER Founder Cara Belvin, Author & Coach Hope Edelman, and Cynthia Whipple.  The NYC event is in partnership with ReImagine End of Life, a week long festival redefining how we think and talk about loss. included the following extraordinary contributors who have a fresh approach in their field and a unique story to tell.  


Diane Vu is a community and events organizer in the tech and education space in NYC. She is also a regional organizer for The Dinner Party, a nonprofit organization that brings together young professionals who have experienced significant loss through intimate dinner parties, and she is a member of the Motherless Daughters NYC chapter. Through her experiences with losing her mother, she found a need for community support for those who are also experiencing life transitions, such as divorce and career changes, on top of going through grief. Diane holds a few public events throughout the year to connect The Dinner Party members in the NYC area and it is open to anyone who has experience loss or is interested in meeting the community.


Hope Edelman is the author of seven nonfiction books, including the bestsellers Motherless Daughters, Motherless Mothers, and The Possibility of Everything. Her books have been published in 17 countries and 11 languages and have sold nearly a million copies. Motherless Daughters, often considered required reading for any woman who has lost a mother, is now in its third edition is about to celebrate its 25th anniversary in print. More than 40 support groups worldwide have started based on the book.

An expert in the field of early mother loss and mother-daughter relationships, Hope speaks at venues and conferences all over the world and has appeared frequently on television, including Today, Good Morning America, CNN, KTLA, CBC, and Good Morning Australia. Through her coaching business, Lose Live Grow, she helps individuals explore early loss as a means for personal growth. She and Claire Bidwell Smith founded Motherless Daughters Retreats, which runs three-night retreats for motherless women several times per year. She is also a Producer of The Conversation; Stories that Matter.

Hope lives in Los Angeles with her husband and two daughters.


Joe Primo is the CEO of Good Grief, which provides free programs to children and families after the death of a parent or sibling, educates to schools and communities, and advocates for the bereaved. He is the author of What Do We Tell the Children?: Talking to Kids About Death and Dying. He is formerly a hospice chaplain. Joe was President of the National Alliance for Grieving Children and serves of the Advisory Board of Option B and Vennly. He is a graduate of Yale Divinity School.


Cara Belvin is a social entrepreneur and founder of empowerHER, a nonprofit organization for young girls who have experienced the early loss of their mothers. After losing her mother at age nine, she grew up advocating with Susan G. Komen for the Cure, and it was in this role and that she saw a need for more community support for women and girls like herself.  She frequently presents on issues surrounding adversity, women’s empowerment, and social entrepreneurship. Cara is the lead producer of The Conversation: Stories that Matter speaker series, and the episodic digital series The Dinner Conversation about women powering through their grief.  Her efforts to support young girls who have lost their mother have been featured on the ABC Boston Affiliate Channel 5  and on PBS NewsHour with Judy Woodruff

She has been recognized as a Boston “Game Changer” by famed photographer Bill Brett, one of Boston’s Exceptional Women by Magic 106.7 FM, South Shore Living Magazine’s Women of Influence and a Speak for Thyself award recipient.  Robert Kraft and the New England Patriots recognized Cara as the Myra Kraft Community MVP for her volunteerism and has been featured in numerous media outlets.

Cara lives in a coastal town on the South Shore of Boston with her husband and two children.  


Carole Geithner, LCSW, is a clinical social worker and author of the novel If Only, a story about mother loss, grief, and resilience (Scholastic, 2012).  Carole has worked with children and adults in a hospital, a bereavement center, schools, and in private practice. She also taught interviewing skills to medical students at George Washington University Medical School.  She sits on the boards of Kids In Need of Defense (KIND), Option B, Surviving Life After a Parent Dies (SLAP’D), and the Sun Valley Writer’s Conference and is a member of the program task force at Gilda’s Club Westchester.  She is currently at work on a second coming-of-age novel. Her mother died when Carole was 25.


Scott K. Wilderman is the President/CEO of Career Resources, one of the nation’s leading non-profit workforce development organizations.  Mr. Wilderman has considerable experience in both the private and the non-profit sectors. After earning a Masters Degree in Industrial and Organizational Psychology, he worked in human resources at General Dynamics in the Electric Boat Division. He subsequently became the Training Manager at Advest Financial Services, and moved into the non-profit sector through his interest in working with disadvantaged youth. Mr. Wilderman currently served as the board chair for the Bridgeport Child Advocacy Coalition and is a member of the board for the Connecticut Patriot Guard Riders and a former board member of the Connecticut United Way.  Some of Mr. Wilderman’s notable successes are as founder of the Bridgeport ReEntry Roundtable along with the merger of the STRIVE programs throughout Connecticut. Mr. Wilderman lives in Connecticut with his wife and two daughters.


Gabrielle Shae is a wife and mother to 3 beautiful girls. In addition to focusing on her family, she is an integral member of HBO’s Domestic Network Distribution team.  Family and career have always been priorities but over the past year, Gabby has also found passion in building and nurturing her blog.  Thersdays focuses on life with her hysterical daughters while finding the right balance when juggling family, career and life. Shortly after launching her blog, she discovered the world of storytelling and embarked on a transformative journey.  Her love for performing and sharing her experiences has added a certain level of excitement to her already remarkable life.  “They say life begins outside of your comfort zone.  I don’t know where this adventure will lead, but I’m going to enjoy the ride.


Muriel Mena. After losing her mother at the age of three, Muriel has worked to show others that age does not affect the grieving that comes with the loss of a mother. Since becoming an empowerHER girl, her love towards women’s empowerment has done nothing but grow.  Now as a high school senior, she hopes to have a career that empowers refugee women and their families. She is beyond grateful for the love, and support EmpowerHER gives to not only herself, but other girls.


Jon Babul is entering his 7th season in the NBA as Vice President of Basketball Programs for the Atlanta Hawks. He also serves as a basketball analyst for the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets broadcasts on ESPN3 and has provided commentary for the Atlanta Hawks on Fox Sports TV Studio Show.

In his work with the Hawks, Babul is responsible for the organization and execution of 90+ community basketball events per year. Jon is active in the community and has served on committees with The ALS Association, The Fatherless Daughter Project and The Atlanta Hawks Foundation. He is actively involved with the Jr NBA, Positive Coaching Alliance, Positive Athlete Georgia, The Naismith Awards, Atlanta Tip-Off Club, Atlanta Sports Hall of Fame and USA Basketball Coach Development.


Rebecca Soffer is the cofounder and CEO of Modern Loss, a website and community that the New York Times has hailed as “redefining mourning.” She also coauthored the book "Modern Loss: Candid Conversation About Grief" (Harper Wave, 2018), which debuted as a #1 new release on Amazon. A former producer for the Peabody Award-winning Colbert Report and a Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism alumna, Rebecca has spoken nationally on the themes of loss and resilience at venues including Chicago Ideas Week, Amazon, and The Commonwealth Club and has been featured in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, Newsweek, and on NPR, among other outlets. Her writing has appeared in a variety of media including Refinery29, Elle, Marie Claire,, and book collections such as "Because I Was a Girl: True Stories for Girls of All Ages."


Meghan O’Rourke, a poet and nonfiction writer, is the author of the poetry collections Sun In DaysOnce and Halflife, as well as the best-selling memoir The Long Goodbye, about the death of her mother. The recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship and other awards, she writes for The New Yorker, the New York Timesthe Atlantic Monthly, and others, and teaches in the MFA Program at NYU.


Jamie-Lee Josselyn is the Associate Director for Recruitment and an instructor for the University of Pennsylvania’s Creative Writing Program and the Director of the Summer Workshop for Young Writers at the Kelly Writers House. She has been listed among Penn’s Top 30 Professors based on student evaluations and has received the Beltran Family Award for Innovative Teaching and Mentoring. Jamie-Lee has received a BA from the University of Pennsylvania and an MFA from Bennington College, where she was the nonfiction editor of The Bennington Review. Her writing has been published in The New Republic, Literary Hub, The Sun, Cleaver Magazine, and elsewhere, and she currently hosts the literary podcast series Dead Parents Society. Jamie-Lee’s mother Barbara died by suicide at age 33 when Jamie-Lee was 12.


Denna D. Babul is the Voice of Fatherless Daughters. She is an expert in the field of fatherlessness and specializes in helping fatherless daughters reconcile their pasts to find their life’s purpose. Denna is an award-winning author of the life-changing book, The Fatherless Daughter Project: Understanding Our Losses and Reclaiming Our Lives (Avery-Penguin-Random House 2016). In 2016 she founded The Fatherless Daughter Movement which focuses on raising awareness and empowering fatherless daughters and the people who love them through: group work, one-on-one sessions, family reconciliations, and a  thriving mentorship program. She is a sought-after speaker, Huffington Post Blogger, TV Personality, writer and mother. Denna has appeared on the Today Show, Fox News, CNN, Sirius XM, Dirty, Sexy, Funny with Jenny McCarthy and many other media outlets. She has been featured in Time, Redbook, MamaGlow and countless other blogs, websites, and magazines. Denna is a member of Women in Film & Television Atlanta and The National Speakers Association of Georgia. She is a weekly contributor to NBC’s Atlanta and Company. Denna is currently writing her next book, Why This Guy: Relationship Choices, Challenges, Dating and Daddy Dilemmas. Her first script, The Coaches Wife is in review with HBO.  She lives in Atlanta with her saint of a husband and two children, Sophie Bleu and Weston Grey.


Carole Geithner, LCSW, is a clinical social worker and author of the novel If Only, a story about mother loss, grief, and resilience (Scholastic, 2012).  Carole has worked with children and adults in a hospital, a bereavement center, schools, and in private practice. She also taught interviewing skills to medical students at George Washington University Medical School.  She sits on the boards of Kids In Need of Defense (KIND), Option B, Surviving Life After a Parent Dies (SLAP’D), and the Sun Valley Writer’s Conference and is a member of the program task force at Gilda’s Club Westchester.  She is currently at work on a second coming-of-age novel. Her mother died when Carole was 25.


Cynthia Dokas Whipple is an attorney who works as a secondary school and college consultant. She is also the co-author of a children's book, Merrilee Mannerly and Her Magnificent Manners, which has been adopted for children's theatre. Merrilee Mannerly, A Magnificent New Musical, is expected to open Off-Broadway during the 2018-2019 season. Cynthia is honored and grateful to be a Producer of The Conversation: Stories that Matter  as well as  The Dinner Conversation examining life after mother loss. She is also an ambassador for empowerHer in Connecticut. It is her hope that this work helps support and inspire young people who have suffered parent loss. Much of her current writing focuses on life after losing both her parents in her early 20s. She lives in Avon, CT with her husband and three children.


Ryan McManus guides organizations through digital transformation to become digital and data leaders and generate business results. Ryan has over 20 years’ of leadership and effective execution experience across digital transformation, corporate strategy, global operations, startups and corporate boards. Most recently as the President and SVP of Partnerships and Corporate Development for EVRYTHNG, the world’s leading IoT Smart Products platform company, Ryan built the world’s leading smart product ecosystem, enabling the digitization of trillions of physical products. He is the author of numerous articles on digital transformation and corporate strategy and has served as an advisor to Fortune 500 companies, technology startups and non-profits.  Ryan is a member of the Board of Directors of Nortech Systems, the advisory board of CarLabs AI. Ryan earned his MBA from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, has worked in over 40 countries and is fluent in English and French.


Josh Benjamin ( is an app developer with a fondness for meaningful sentiment. When Josh was 4 years old, his mother began treatment for cancer, which involved ups and downs with remission and recurrence until she died when Josh was 7. The “move on” approach in his environment impeded keeping her legacy alive. Exploring life as an adult, Josh yearned to know his mother better. Now based out of San Francisco, Josh is the founder of Lifechime (, an app to help new parents give their children a way to learn about them as they grow up, no matters what happens. He has been involved in death and dying conversations for 5 years and has helped patients preserve their legacies as a volunteer at UCSF Medical Center.


Darcy Walker Krause is the Executive Director at The Center for Grieving Children in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  Having lost her mother at 15, Darcy knows the loss experience intimately, and this experience helped shape her career trajectory. Through her professional and research experience, Darcy focuses on a variety of facets of the loss experience, including the peer support model, the role of attachment in grief, trauma-based models of intervention, and fostering resiliency in youth. Darcy currently serves as a Board Member of the National Alliance for Grieving Children. Darcy graduated from Furman University, Duke University School of Law, and the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Social Policy and Practice. Darcy lives in Philadelphia with her husband and three children.